"History taught me to always look for context – context surrounding particular moments in time, political ideas, or culture. I think that’s helped me not get overly excited about the newness of technology. Because of history I’m more prone to ask: what’s not new about this?"
How did you end up pursuing your career? Do you have any advice for students contemplating similar career paths? What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were an undergraduate?
I ended up studying social science of internet in part because of my experience as a humanities major in Silicon Valley. What I learned in the History Department was that was that objects and systems we take for granted have politics and histories. I wanted to think about how that plays out online. Right now, I’m focusing on how data-driven decisions that affect people’s day-to-day lives (jobs, insurance, healthcare) reflect societal inequality.
My advice is to try to take a mix of lots of different classes. In one of favorite quarters I was taking a history seminar, a statistics lecture, and an Arabic poetry class. The contrasts between the three helped me see them all more clearly.
I would also say: if possible take some time off of school to work! I took a quarter off to work at the SF Chronicle, and only wish I’d taken more time.
Has your History training helped you along the way - and if so, how?
History taught me to always look for context – context surrounding particular moments in time, political ideas, or culture. I think that’s helped me not get overly excited about the newness of technology. Because of history I’m more prone to ask: what’s not new about this?
Do you have any particularly fond memories of the History Department?
I have so many fond memories from Coffee & Donuts – chatting with friends new and old, pretending to do readings while mostly just hanging out.
In terms of lasting impact: in a very literal way, I’ve brought my notebooks from Prof Kumar’s Global Intellectual History class with me to Oxford. I frequently refer back to them! Prof Satia’s class on narrating the British Empire in my first year made me look at literature as part of history. Prof Crews challenged me to think about Islam in different places. Being mentored as a peer advisor by Prof Mullaney showed me how to design projects and get others excited about history. I also had a great grad student instructor, Jake Daniels, who taught me to ask pointed research questions. In general, History staff, TAs, and faculty were so supportive and kind throughout my time at Stanford.